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Joseph Adu V. Lamina Lasisi (1970) LLJR-SC

Joseph Adu V. Lamina Lasisi (1970)

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In the Magistrate’s Court of Lagos State, holden at Lagos, the present respondent and two others who were later discharged, were tried in a private prosecution for contempt of court contra section 133(8) of the Criminal Code.

The respondent was convicted of the offence and sentenced to a term of two months I.H.L. The particulars of the offence were that he re-took possession of a piece of land at Ilado near Maroko which land had been obtained from him by a writ of court. He succeeded in an appeal to the High Court of Labos where the learned Chief Justice of Lagos State allowed his appeal and quashed the conviction against him.

The complainant has appealed to this Court from the judgement of the High Court.
The matter before the learned magistrate was straight forward and easy and he dealt speedily with it as it befits that court.

The learned magistrate had before him a defendant brought to court under a criminal summons signed by a magistrate with affidavit in support stating that the land in dispute was adjudicated upon in the High Court and adjudged the land of the present complainant and his people and that a warrant of possession was issued against the defendant for possession of the land and that the defendant was subsequently convicted in the High Court for contempt in that he refused to obey the order of the court to quit the land.

After the warrant of possession, according to the evidence before the learned magistrate, which he believed, the defendant went back and re-took possession of the land.

The defendant at first denied he was served with the criminal summons but faced with his counter-affidavit he admitted being served. He denied in his counter affidavit that he re-took possession of the land, but in his evidence before the learned magistrate, he admitted going back on the land and having his cattle, etc. there. In fact he said he had every right to go there.

In his consideration of the appeal before him, the learned Chief Justice referred to sections 78 to 86 of the Criminal Procedure Act and dealt extensively with matters which were not argued before him. He made it clear however that he was not basing his judgement’ on these but called attention of magistrates to them. We do not propose to deal with these matters except to say that once a man is brought before a magistrate on a charge, we feel that since the man’s attendance has been secured and he is present in court, the magistrate has a duty to proceed with his trial, subject of course to any point of law which may be raised and which the learned magistrate must deal with.

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In the present case, the defendant himself admitted in his affidavit and before the learned magistrate that he was served with a summons and in our view that was the end of the matter and the magistrate was competent to try him.

The ground on which the appeal was allowed was that the identity of the land in dispute was not proved. We feel bound to point out at the onset that the learned Chief Justice has given this point a prominence which it does not deserve and which in any case is not justified. Throughout the proceedings it is abundantly clear the land which parties were litigating on.

The learned Chief Justice thought a plan showing the land in dispute should have been filed. We do not think this was necessary. From the onset the land was referred to as “a piece of land at Ilado near Maroko” on which the defendant had been ejected by an order of court and reference was made to the judgement Suit IK/263/65 in the High Court. The defendant did not at any time say he did not know the land or that he wanted better and further particulars about the land.

In fact, in his affidavit the defendant stated that he did not retake possession of the land but that he went there to see his relations, Contrary to this was the evidence that he was seen on the land living there with his tenants. When he was called to give evidence under cross-examination the defendant had to admit that he went back and re-took possession of the land.

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There was no time the defendant was in doubt about the land in dispute. We are therefore unable to agree with the view of the learned Chief Justice that the land in dispute was not sufficiently identified or that a plan of the land was necessary.
The case before the learned magistrate was plain and his duty was clear. We see no reason why his judgement must be disturbed.

There is another aspect of this matter we feel it is our duty to mention. At the end of the trial in the Magistrate’s Court and after sentence had been passed upon the defendant, he prayed the court to allow him to speak to his people in court which application was duly granted. This is what he said openly in court.

“My people, I want all of you to remain in the land.” The learned magistrate noted that this was a contempt, but did nothing more about the matter. We think this is the worst form of contempt in the face of the court, especially in the case of a man who has been twice convicted of contempt in respect of this same matter.

Undoubtedly, the learned magistrate must behave with great restraint not to commit the defendant to prison for an indefinite period until he purged himself of his contempt.

This appeal will be allowed. The judgement of the High Court of Lagos in Appeal No. LD125CA/69 allowing the appeal of the defendant/appellant in that court and the Order acquitting and discharging him are hereby set aside.

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The judgement of the learned magistrate as passed upon the defendant and the order made as to costs are hereby restored and this will be the judgement of the Court.

The defendant/appellant is to be apprehended and lodged in the prison to serve his term. Costs of this appeal will be born by him who are assessed at 40 guineas.

Other Citation: (1970) LCN/1755(SC)

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